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What is the best way to store leftover paint?

It’s rare to finish a painting job with the exact amount you purchased. In nearly all cases you will be left with either a lot or a little bit of paint, and knowing what to do with that leftover paint can save you time, money and the environment.

The paint job is done, what now?

So you’ve just finished your painting job and you’re ready to relax. Not so fast. You need to rinse the roller and tray out until the water runs clear and then hang them to dry, preferably in a shed or garage. Paintbrushes can be cleaned in warm soapy water or citrus detergent. Oil-based paints require paintbrushes to be cleaned with paint thinner. Once cleaned, leave them to dry along with your roller out of the house.

How to store leftover paint

Next, you need to deal with the paint itself. A small amount of paint may come in handy, even for touching up the very job you’ve just finished. So in most cases, you will want to retain the paint. First wipe away any excess paint from around the rim, cover with cling film and only then replace the lid. To make sure it’s firmly on, use a mallet to lightly tap it. If possible, use metal tabs to close it securely. Once you know the tin is secure, find a cool, dry place to store it – ideally in a garage so it’s out of the way of pets and children. An outdoor shed may be too cold as paint needs to be kept above zero. When you store it, place it upside down so that air cannot get into the paint tin.

If there is too much leftover, and you know you will have no need for it, do all the above steps (except for placing it upside down) and find a charity or theatre group that accept paint donations.

Disposing of small amounts

Provided you are certain you won’t reuse the paint, you can only throw the tin away if there is less than a quarter of the paint left. If so leave the cap off and allow it to dry – this can take several days and requires you to stir it every day at first to stop it simply forming a film on the top. Once it’s dried it can be taken to your local dump, or thrown out with domestic waste. Plastic paint pots go to general landfill, whilst metal ones can go into your metal recycling container.

Protect the environment

Never try to pour paint down a drain, sink or toilet, and never try to bury it or throw it away in your general household waste. If you cannot dry the paint out because there is too much, and you cannot find a charity to donate it to, contact your local authority waste disposal team for advice.

Nearly all leftover paint can be stored for later use, either for touching up paint jobs or for a new job.

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